Posted by Jay on September 17, 2010 at 11:34 AM CST
Welcome to 'At The Movies - Poster Book Edition' with your hosts Chris Wyman and Jay Shepard. Today we'll be reviewing the new book from Titan Books, The Art of Drew Struzan, which is available at finer book sellers now.

Here's the official word on the book. Read this first then check out what we have to say!


"Described by Steven Spielberg as “My favorite movie artist”, Drew Struzan has created some of the most iconic movie poster images of the last 30 years, from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Star Wars: Episode III. This is the first book to cover the acclaimed artist’s movie work in depth, with a Foreword by Frank Darabont. Featuring over 300 pieces of artwork, from black and white and color comprehensives (presenting concepts and ideas) to final poster art, accompanied by excerpts from an exclusive interview with the artist, the development of 40 projects is related and explained. With scores of previously unseen pieces, including unused final poster art for movies such as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Hellboy II, this is a treat for movie buffs and artists alike."

Let's get started with this review. We have four categories to cover, so let's begin with...

Curb Appeal
Chris: At first glance, the book actually reminds me of one of Drew’s paintings. It’s got a very bold and classic look to the cover. It is a hard cover book, but it's not too heavy and I was able to sit in a chair and read it cover to cover during one sitting in about two hours. I think the weight is an important factor that’s worth mentioning as some books are too heavy to hold in your hands and read in one sitting. This one has the perfect balance of size and weight.

Jay: Well it's an art book, so it needs to be big enough that the art reproduces well for the reader. Check! It's a large 12" by 9" inch book that looks like it can handle the demands of a detailed artist like Drew. It's not so heavy, as Chris pointed out, that you'll tire from reading this. And for those willing to remove the dust jacket, there's a nifty surprise waiting for you underneath!


Well, you know what they say? "You can't judge a book by it's cover." So let's open this 160 page book up and check out the...

Contents
Jay: I was initially disappointed in what I found. When I heard that there was a book titled, The Art of Drew Struzan I got very excited! Awesome, great prints of all the Star Wars posters (for those that don't know he's done at least one poster for every theatrical release, from Episode IV to Episode III)! I was really looking forward to some of my favorite pieces being presented. Maybe an updated version of the 2004 book, The Movie Posters of Drew Struzan. Alas, that's not what's here. So let me set you straight. If you're looking for a comprehensive gallery of Drew's work, this book is not the one for you. But actually, after reading through it, I realized that I liked the approach that the editor's had picked. This book takes key pieces from 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark poster (What? You thought that Richard Amstel was the only version of that poster?!?) all the way thru 2008's Hellboy II: The Golden Army (didn't know Drew did that one either, did ya?) and shows the creative process with a series of black and white, and sometimes, color comps, along with the finished piece. Each movie poster section includes a brief reminiscence by Drew on what worked, or what didn't work. Or in some cases, what grade-A jerks the Hollywood execs were. This book also reminded me that I miss the days of hand drawn art posters. You don't really realize what you're missing until it's gone, but look around. All the posters today are digital "comps" from photo shoots. There's no real art in them anymore. And considering Drew's posters have been around me all my life, from Star Wars to Big Trouble in Little China; Back to the Future to Hellboy, these posters define a generation of filmgoers and still continue to evoke amazement even today.

Chris: The Forward, which is written by Frank Darabont, really speaks volumes about the current state of movie poster art. He goes into extreme detail about how the “suits” (studio executives) are responsible for the downfall of real art in the movie poster business and feels that the new digital computer art doesn't hold a candle to the old stuff, which I tend to agree with. This is not a complete life's work of Drew Struzan by any means. The story starts in the early 80’s and leads right up to 2008 when he retired. There’s a brief section for most of the big films he worked on that explain the sometimes short, but always difficult process of creating the perfect piece that everyone is happy with. He speaks of great success seeing pieces of his work used in some of the most beloved films of our time as well as heartbreak when other works of art were thrown by the wayside. I found it particularly interesting to learn how many comps he had to do for studio executives before they finally agreed on an idea. He mentions that at times, he had nothing to go on and was asked to simply make something up which often turned out to be exactly what the studio wanted and other times, not so much.


It's great to have content that readers can spend time on, but is it well-done? Is this a high-end book or is it printed on newspaper? Next, we'll check out the...

Quality
Chris: A lot of care was put into the construction of this book. There are both full color and black & white images throughout with each one shown in perfect resolution. This one will fit nicely on my shelf of encyclopedias and reference books.

Jay: The glossy pages do show off the art beautifully, as well as my fingerprints. I'll have to remember to get a set of gloves for my next reading. The binding appears to be tight, but not so much that it hides the inside edges of the pages, that can sometimes happen. All in all, a quality book to put out on your coffee table or keep in display on your shelf.


So, let's put our final 2˘ in as we address the...

Conclusions
Jay: For a book of this quality, content and design the price is just right at $34.95. It's both charming, and funny, with enough "inside infomamtion" to please film fans. I really feel like I got to know Drew after reading this book, and hope that someday I can shake his hand and say, "Thanks for all the great posters!"

Chris: Once again, this is not a record of the complete work of Mr. Struzan, but for fans of his work, it’s definitely worth picking up. It's a very easy read made up of 160 pages. You will learn new things about Drew and the processes that he went through when creating his movie poster art while following a common theme throughout the book. This theme represents the unfortunate decline in true movie poster art over the last decade. Today, it seems, studios are only interested in the quickest, easiest and cheapest method of producing movie posters which is why we only see digital cutouts and photoshopped backgrounds on most these days. This makes his amazing work seem all the more important.


To find out more about the artist, please visit his website at http://drewstruzan.com/


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